A late 1800s beauty models a corset of the time, designed to push up her breasts, cinch in the waist, and accentuate the backwards flare of her derriere. COURTESY PHOTO, WRVM

A late 1800s beauty models a corset of the time, designed to push up her breasts, cinch in the waist, and accentuate the backwards flare of her derriere. COURTESY PHOTO, WRVM

Suffer for Beauty: Women’s history revealed through undergarments

White Rivery Valley Museum’s new exhibit runs through June 17

  • Saturday, January 20, 2018 10:12am
  • Life

For the Reporter

Auburn’s White River Valley Museum is presenting a provocative, visually fascinating and dialog-provoking exhibit: Suffer for Beauty: Women’s History Revealed Through Undergarments.

The exhibit opened Jan. 10 and runs through June 17.

“This exhibit was first mounted in 1994 and was very popular, so we reprised it in 2009,” said Museum Director Patricia Cosgrove. “The 2018 iteration of the exhibit continues that tradition of a riotous display of costume, undergarments, historic images of trend setting beauties and of local women doing their best to keep up with fashion.”

New elements have been added to the exhibit including displays of 1960s and 1970s fashion, a portrayal of how the female form really doesn’t change – as shown by an array of famous bathing beauties 1880 to 1970, and a series of new programs.

Suffering for Beauty is not just a thing of the past. Twenty-first century women went to great effort and cost to accommodate ever changing beauty ideals. Strenuous exercise, perpetual dieting, mammoplasty, liposuction, body waxing, skin peals, and some very expensive and uncomfortable undergarment fashions; these are just some of the ways women try to sculpt and refashion their bodies.

More than 140 years ago, women laced themselves into tight-fitting corsets and bustled their derrieres to achieve a curvaceous female form. Within decades, however, fashion designers replaced the voluptuous late Victorian hourglass with an androgynous female form. The new fashion figure was slender, long-limbed and flat-chested; the iconic flapper silhouette was born.

Every age has its own ideas about beauty and the fashion that adorns our bodies. Suffer for Beauty explores changing ideals of female beauty by looking at foundations of the female form, 1870-1970: undergarments and the accouterments that helped women in their effort to attain the elusive ideal of beauty – which, in so many ways, reflects the roles of women in the society of their time.

Cosgrove and Dr. Michelle Marshman, a museum board member and history professor at Green River College, co-curate the exhibit. It is supported by 4Culture.

The museum, 918 H St. SE, is open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m. On the first Thursday of each month the hours are extended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Regular admission is $5 adults, $2 seniors and children, children 2 years of age or younger are free. Admission is free for everyone all day on the first Thursday and the third Sunday of every month.

Call 253-288-7433 or visit wrvmuseum.org for event information.

Exhibit programs:

This Victorian Life with Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman: 2 p.m. Feb. 17. Included with museum admission or membership. RSVP required at wrvmuseum.org.

Overnight at the Museum: Girls Only: 7 p.m.-8 a.m. March 23-24. $35 per child, pre-registration required at wrvmuseum.org.

Suffer for Beauty Curator Led Tour: 7 p.m. April 5. Free, no registration required, but space is limited.

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby Tames Alan living history program: 7-8:30 p.m. April 25. $20 per person, pre-registration required at wrvmuseum.org.

A Taste of Women’s History Lecture and tasting: 1-2 p.m. May 12. $15 per person, pre-registration required at wrvmuseum.org.

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